Mental health charity Mind explains that spending time in green spaces, or growing food and flowers, can have positive effects on mood, reducing feelings of stress and helping us to feel more relaxed
CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful
If you’re keen to take up gardening, and want to develop a relaxing green space of your own, it can be tricky to know where to start. In order to create an environment that helps you switch off, and become more mindful, it’s useful to think about the five senses when planning your space. By considering sound, sight, taste, touch and smell, you can begin to develop a sensory garden that helps you tune-in to your surroundings, one which provides a necessary break from the stressors of daily life.
Natural noises, such as rainfall and birdsong, are recognised as being peaceful and calming; rather than listening to them via an app, you can easily tune-in to the real thing. Hanging bird feeders in sheltered spots, or placing a bird bath, will encourage and support wildlife numbers, while installing a bubbling water feature will create gentle background noise in your garden. You should also consider that certain plants and trees, such as long grasses and willow, will create peaceful sounds in the wind, and that more dense foliage can help to block out unwanted noise from nearby roads.
Growing plants you can eat is a magical process; it’s hugely satisfying, and allows us to nurture and observe the development from small seeds to kitchen ingredients. Having an ongoing supply of spinach, beans, or salad leaves means you’ll spend less money at the supermarket, and avoid considerable amounts of plastic packaging – you’re also likely to waste less food, having appreciated the delicate growing process. If you’re a tea drinker, it’s wonderful to grow herbs, such as mint, that can be infused in hot water for a relaxing brew. You can also research other botanicals that are great for cocktails and decorating cakes.
Getting your hands dirty in the process of planting, and tending to, a garden is a mindful practice in itself, but you can enhance the experience by introducing a patchwork of textures into your space. Try choosing different plants with soft, shiny, waxy or hairy foliage. A mixture of cobbles and smooth tiles can be used to create pathways and patios in order to provide a range of textures. If you’ve got space, think about incorporating a springy lawn to walk over barefoot, or run your fingers through, for an instant connection to nature.
Scent is often the first thing we associate with a garden, given the wonderful fragrance produced by many beautiful flowers. Depending on your preference, you can grow lavender and jasmine for the ultimate relaxing scents. Try roses, sweet peas or honeysuckle for sensuous summer smells, or citrus fruits and tomato plants for wafts that are zesty and uplifting. Of course, stimulating smells aren’t limited to flowering plants; autumnal leaves, rich compost, and freshly cut grass are all nostalgic scents that can help ground us, and identify changing seasons.
When working at a computer there’s something inspiring and refreshing about a view of trees or other greenery through the window. Create this for yourself at home by transforming your overgrown space, or concrete patio, into a luscious, green oasis of calm. Of course, colours have a big impact on our mood, so consider this when selecting flowering plants and decor for your garden.
Typically, white and purples induce thoughtfulness and reflection while hot colours, like orange and yellow, are linked with joy and excitement. You can get brilliant glazed terracotta pots, patterned cushions and even outdoor rugs to add a splash of colour and something special to look at.
For truly unique features, try up-cycling furniture for your outdoor space. Old wooden drawers or crates can work well for miniature herb gardens, or you could add an old mirror to elongate your space – whatever will bring a smile to your face.
Using the five senses can be a helpful starting point when creating a special spot for unwinding. However, if you’re still stuck for inspiration, try wandering round other gardens or natural areas, such as woodland. Here you’ll experience plants, materials, sounds and smells that you can often replicate in your own garden. Just remember, you don’t have to have a large outdoor space in order to feel closer to nature; a conservatory, balcony, or even window box, can be ideal for growing plants, developing your green fingers and boosting wellbeing.